New Jersey Audubon to celebrate 35 years of the ‘World Series of Birding’

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Anyone involved in the “World Series of Birding” agrees: It sure is an exhilarating way to spend 24 hours.
Just imagine, at the stroke of midnight, joining your friends in a New Jersey marsh, or field, or beach, or wherever, to begin an all-night, all-day journey to see or hear as many bird species as possible within the 8,732 square miles of New Jersey.
This treasure hunt of sorts, which serves as a key fundraiser for New Jersey Audubon, happens every year, this year on May 12, rain or shine. That’s when the last of the wintering birds are still here, and when new migrating and breeding birds arrive. Together, they create a spectacular and eclectic collection of birds originating from as far north as the arctic tundra and as far south as Tierra Del Fuego. For this one moment, they are all converging in New Jersey.
It is easy to join the competition; no experience necessary. The World Series of Birding is open to anyone, at any age or skill level. Participants can join contest categories that would prompt them to travel up to 300 miles around the state in 24 hours.
Or, for a completely different experience, participants can join categories in which they are restricted to a county, or even within a 17-foot circle. You can be part of a car full of fellow birders, out on your own, or with others on bikes, on foot or by boat.
There are obvious and non-bending rules. For example, only birds found in New Jersey can be counted. And don’t concoct a story that you heard or saw a certain bird species. The judges know their stuff, and will immediately delete your suspicious entry.
“You don’t have to prove you saw a certain bird,” Dunne said. “Everyone tells the truth. A birder’s word is his bond. We are disgustingly honest people.”
There are now about 85 teams who compete annually in the World Series of Birding. There is a nominal fee to register, and the proceeds raised more than $200,000 for New Jersey Audubon. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are also raised by conservation organizations that field a team and pay the entry fee, after which they can keep their donations.
Preparation is key. As the clock is ticking, it is important that birders identify a new bird species every five or 10 minutes. Dunne strongly recommends that participants map out their route in the days preceding May 12, ensuring they have the ability to see and hear as many birds as possible during the 24-hour competition.
The vast majority of participants do not compete in the frenzied 300-mile statewide trek that culminates in Cape May Point State Park, notes Lillian Armstrong, special events director for New Jersey Audubon. Many join local county competitions, in which a “par” is set for the number of bird species they need to identify over the 24 hours. The par varies per county, based on the diversity of birds potentially existing at the local level.
Great local spots are the Cape May Bird Observatory, Cape May Point State Park, or the NJ Audubon Hoffman Sanctuary in Bernardsville, or Sandy Hook, Armstrong noted. There is also a separate competition for children, from grades 1-5, grades 6-8 and grades 9-12. For a full list of competitions, and for further information visit http://worldseriesofbirding.org/.